The total communication approach is about finding and using the right combination of communication methods for each person. This approach helps an individual to form connections, ensures successful interactions and supports information exchanges and conversations. A combination of methods are used, which reinforce each other and strengthen meaning for the individual.
We use the following types of approach:
- Non-verbal: including body movements, breathing patterns and eye pointing. Intensive interaction and routine can also support communication by allowing an individual to anticipate what is going to happen next.
- Language-based communication: including speech, lip-reading, and sign systems including British Sign Language (BSL) and Makaton.
- Symbol systems: including using objects of reference (real objects and object symbols), Widget, Picture Exchange Communication System (PECS), line drawings, pictures and photographs.
These methods of communication can be used in any combination and will be individual to the person. When looking at communication it is important to understand the two different types of language skills, expressive and receptive. How somebody expresses themselves can form a foundation for learning and offer a starting point on which to build communication development.
Expressive communication is when you are sending a message, this may be in response to another person, or to initiate communication.
Receptive communication is when you receive a message from another person.
An individual’s expressive and receptive communication skills may not be the same. People will use a combination of the communication methods listed above, both expressively and receptively. For example, a person may receive and understand information in sign language and need symbols to help reinforce the meaning, but will use sign language and speech to express themselves.